Do you want your home to be safer and more efficient? This is the final installment of a four-part series from Okanogan County PUD about WISE (water, infrastructure, safety, efficiency) landscaping around your home. In this part, we will talk about critical maintenance to stay WISE.
We’ve shared a lot of tips about reducing your risk of fire and conserving water, but there’s no way to be perfect. Instead, let’s strive for excellence, rather than perfection. It’s all about increasing efficiency and reducing risk. Selectively begin to remove highly flammable plants and make improvements. Even fire-resistant landscapes are not fire-proof, but with proper maintenance, you can keep what your hard work has created.
Make sure you thin and prune your plants. Prevent the build-up of “ladder fuels” which would allow fire to climb from one plant to another. Prune trees 10 feet up from the ground, or from the top of a shrub underneath it. Prune and thin shrubs back to keep them separated to prevent fire spreading – they should be no closer than twice their height. You can clean the debris out of some shrubs or trees by hosing them down. And make sure to take care of those weeds regularly!
Don’t forget to maintain your clearance zones with utility infrastructure, too! Trim back shrubs or low trees to be at least 10 feet from poles and the front of pad-mount transformers. The edges of trees should have at least 10 feet clearance from power lines. If you have concerns or need more specific tips or help with clearance zones, please call us.
Now that you’ve done your pruning, thinning and weeding, clean up those debris piles. Rake up dead leaves, twigs and other plant litter – the leaves will be great for your compost bin. If you have a deck, get rid of debris under it and consider placing gravel underneath to reduce weeds and other fuel materials that may build up.
Look around your home for other places where debris can build up. Look for leaves or weeds around your roof, gutters, and outdoor HVAC units. Also remove items that are flammable, such as fuel cans or wood piles. As for wood piles, a cord of wood contains 20 million BTUs, which means it has the same potential to burn and cause damage as about 150 gallons of gasoline!
Speaking of damage, while you’re looking for debris, look for any needed repairs around the house. Check your vents for holes where wildfire embers could get in. Check those shades or umbrellas for wear and tear. Check your irrigation and hoses for leaks or other issues. And before temps drop to freezing, don’t forget to winterize – that could save you from a leaky system next season!
A few other tips: If you did put together a compost bin, it’s important to turn it to aerate it – materials should be wet, like a wrung-out sponge. Add more material if it’s too wet or add more water if it’s too dry. Also, maintain your non-combustible mulch and composted soil around plants to keep that moisture and replenish nutrients while discouraging weeds.
And while you’re using tools for maintenance, be careful to avoid the heat of the day and/or very dry conditions – fuel-based, heat-producing equipment can actually be a catalyst to spark a fire – use them in the cool of the day and be sure to keep your plants green.
Well, that’s our series on WISE landscaping! What will you do to be fire-ready, infrastructure aware, energy-efficient and conserve water? Check out our videos and more on our website, www.okanoganpud.org, or on our Facebook page.